How to treat split fingertips?
December 8, 2008 8:38 AM   Subscribe

How to treat split fingertips?

About once a month, I pretty routinely get a crack in my fingertip, at the corner where the nail meets the fingertip. It appears to go down through several layers of skin and is pretty painful for a few days. After moving in the cool air this weekend and handling dozens of boxes, my hands dried out and I've got (ouch) four split fingers.

Is there anyone else that gets these and if so do you have any tips at either preventing them or treating them? It doesn't seem that bandaids help, and I try to use moisturizer, but otherwise it's a guaranteed three or four days of pain regardless of what I try.
posted by skechada to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It doesn't seem that bandaids help, and I try to use moisturizer

Do you try to use it or do you use it? Your hands are dry, that's the cause of the problem. You must moisturize regularly, at least once a day and probably more- I would suggest using a thick hand cream at night before you go to bed. I also find wearing gloves when outside protects them from getting too dry.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:54 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

When that happens I moisturize the area, then put on band-aids, both to protect it from ouchies and to help it retain moisture until healing begins. Four - that sounds painful!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:56 AM on December 8, 2008

Cyanoacrylate, Super Glue, Krazy Glue ?
posted by so_ at 9:00 AM on December 8, 2008

Try Aquaphor. TPS is right about the gloves, but make sure you put them on before you step outside. Believe it or not, just those few seconds while you're outside putting your gloves on can start to dry out your skin.

Use the Aquaphor in the morning. Use it again at night. Spread it on really thick. If you can find some cotton gloves, and it's not too uncomfortable, wear those at night. When my feet are really dry I cover them with Aquaphor and sleep in socks, and after a couple of days the difference is amazing.
posted by Evangeline at 9:04 AM on December 8, 2008

I've heard good things about Corn Husker's Lotion. I've never used it, but lots of commercial fishermen, carpenters, and other cold weather workers swear by it.
posted by lobstah at 9:11 AM on December 8, 2008

Get some pure lanolin, and rub a little of that into your fingertips once a day. Ever shake hands with a sheep shearer?
posted by bricoleur at 9:18 AM on December 8, 2008

The thing about moisturizing in winter is that you just have to do it regularly, whether or not your skin seems dry at the time. Put lotion on your hands before bed. Put it on again in the morning after you shower. Put it on at work after you wash your hands. If you wait for your skin to get dry before applying moisturizer, it doesn't really work that well (at least in my experience). It's better than nothing, and it can start you healing, but the key is to use the stuff before your hands get dry and crack-y. I only figured this out last year, and the difference has been amazing to me.
posted by vytae at 9:22 AM on December 8, 2008

The best thing I have found for cracked fingers is Bag Balm. It was actually developed to protect cows udders from the elements! You can usually find it in drugstores.
posted by radioamy at 9:34 AM on December 8, 2008

Once a crack develops: If you can, use fingernail clippers to clip off *only* the outermost piece(s) of skin -- just the dead stuff. Once you do that, on to everything already mentioned above. I've found that clipping off that dead skin helps it all heal more quickly. (And it cuts down on the ongoing pain, as well. Must be something about that dead skin pulling away from itself at the source or something....)
posted by *burp* at 9:45 AM on December 8, 2008

I get these sometimes. To fix it I put tons of vasoline petroleum jelly on my hands and sleep with socks on my hands. In one night they're better. Similar to what Evangeline suggests. But like everyone else says I just have to remember to do some hand moisture care more frequently too.
posted by dog food sugar at 9:49 AM on December 8, 2008

My mom used to get this really bad; turned out it was some kind of allergic dermatitis. She was allergic to newsprint and leather. Once she stopped coming in contact with those things, the problem was much better. Maybe consider getting an allergy test in addition to treating the symptom?

The dermatologist also recommended a hand lotion made by Neutrogena. It's really thick, almost waxy, but it helped her a lot.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:56 AM on December 8, 2008

Prevention is the best strategy. Wear gloves outside in the cold. Use hand lotion, especially before you go outside and after you wash your hands. I like the Bert's Bees Shea Butter Hand Repair Creme. Also, be sure to drink lots of water.

If you already have a cracked finger, you might want to try super glue. It works pretty well for paper cuts.
posted by paulg at 9:57 AM on December 8, 2008

1. Prevention: I used to suffer horribly from deep, painful cracks in my fingertips and heels every winter, despite loads of moisturizer/Bag Balm/Kerasal/what have you. This all went away once I started taking iron supplements. Something to consider.

2. Cure: Definitely superglue or one of the analogs made by bandage manufacturers. It immediately stops the pain and closes the wound so it can heal.
posted by HotToddy at 9:59 AM on December 8, 2008

The product you are looking for is Snowfire, it's designed specifically for treating and healing "hacks" on the fingers.
posted by fire&wings at 10:24 AM on December 8, 2008

You might take a little more in the way of B vitamins as well.
posted by DandyRandy at 10:25 AM on December 8, 2008

I get something like this; it almost looks like someone had taken a tiny axe and made a split on the fingertip where the nail meets. Like yours, it is very deep and very painful. According to my rheumatologist, my splits are caused by vasculitis; perhaps you should have a doctor look at your hands the next time this happens. The only suggestion he gave was Krazy Glue (moisturizers wouldn't make a difference), which I tried a few times, but it burned so much upon initial application (it goes numb after a few minutes, though) I stopped using it.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:55 AM on December 8, 2008

My hands get incredibly dry and chapped in the winter despite using lotion and wearing gloves at night. I tried lanolin and that worked ok, but by far the best is body oil. It's actually sesame oil so it has a pleasant scent--you could also use olive oil. I am really surprised with how well it works and will keep using it this winter.
posted by FergieBelle at 12:11 PM on December 8, 2008

I find that this helps, as well as gently buffing off the dry skin around my nails with a cuticle stone or fine nail file
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:17 PM on December 8, 2008

In addition to all the great advice above I also found that keeping a humidifier in my house helped cut down dramatically on the amount of split/dry/winter skin madness.
posted by Ookseer at 12:29 PM on December 8, 2008

As an avid handwasher in New England, my fingers and hands start cracking as soon as Fall rolls around. Yu-be is the only cream i have found that survives several rounds of hand washing. Once the cracks occur, it's Neosporin and band aids till they heal.
posted by tenderman kingsaver at 2:09 PM on December 8, 2008

I use superglue, although it doesn't work as well as I wish.
posted by luckypozzo at 3:56 PM on December 8, 2008

I get chillblains. Very painful, and similar to your problem. Try putting a little neosporen or other "triple antibiotic" ointment on the crack and then out a bandaid over it. You'll have to reapply every time you wash your hands or get the area wet. This doesn't always heal it (although sometimes it does, in about 4 days), but it will reduce the pain considerably.
posted by nax at 6:49 PM on December 8, 2008

Glysolid is a good product. Absorbed quickly = less greasy hands.
posted by omnidrew at 11:29 PM on December 8, 2008

Thanks for the comments. As I went to Walgreen's looking for the bag balm, I came across "Zim's Crack Creme" for "cracked skin on hands and cuticles". It seems like it's working reasonably well, at least as far as the pain in the biggest cracks goes.
posted by skechada at 10:50 AM on December 9, 2008

I highly recommend New Skin liquid bandage.

You need to apply a couple of layers and it initially leaves you smelling of clove. It works well because it can survive a couple days of hand washing, long enough to let your hands heal.
posted by the biscuit man at 11:08 AM on December 9, 2008

As a followup, while the creams and lotions worked moderately well, the superglue and/or liquid bandages work much better in sealing the crack and (more importantly) stopping the pain. Thanks again for all the advice.
posted by skechada at 8:06 AM on January 14, 2009

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